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Helen Bohorquez

Andrés Barreto: “Never stop looking for ways to learn”

This article was originally published in PorColombia.

Andres-BarretoEntrepreneur, eloquent, visionary, practical. All of these adjectives describe Andrés Barreto, a 25-year-old Colombian who thanks to the success of projects such as GroovesharkOnswipe and Pulso Social has made a name for himself in the fields of technology and entrepreneurship.

Born in Bogotá, Andrés and his family moved to Miramar, Florida in 1999 when he was just 12-years-old. After finishing high school, he attended the University of Florida, where he graduated with a degree in Political Science. It was during his first semester that he created his first company: Socialatom, a project that began as a software development company and has now moved into a communications and public relations firm that has offices as far as Buenos Aires.

However, Andrés did not stop there. Those college years were very productive, with him co-founding two more companies: the well-known music streaming service Grooveshark and PulsoSocial, an online publication that covers technology and innovation news in Latin America.

But how does a political science graduate ends up creating tech projects? “I initially started studying business engineering, but it was something that didn’t help me to create what I wanted which was software companies. So I decided to study something that I really liked which was political science.” Andrés said. “What I did then was focusing all my research and all my essays on the economic development of Latin America along with entrepreneurship and technology.”

This peculiar approach helped him to develop the process behind many of his successful projects. According to him, his secret is “to create something that helps him to solve a problem of his own.” One of his predicaments turned out to be justifiably upsetting: listening to Colombian music. “Besides popular music, I couldn’t find traditional Colombian music anywhere, not even bootleg downloads or music at record stores,” Andrés said. “And that’s why I created Grooveshark.”

After Grooveshark, which is still in business today, he also discovered that building a company from a remote place such as Gainsville, FL was in fact beneficial. The low costs of having Grooveshark’s headquarters located there, and not in a big city, made him realize the great possibilities people could have of creating their own ventures in regularly overlooked places such a Latin America.

Just imagine what it could be done; we have access to technology; we have access to the same knowledge, so we can do big and interesting things at a global level, right from Latin America,” he added with a visionary tone.  His next move was trying to meet people who were creating their own technological endeavors on Latin countries; however, this revealed another problem: there was no enough information about them or their projects.

Andrés, being himself, came up with a solution. “From 2002 to 2010, I traveled all over Latin America while researching and meeting investors and entrepreneurs to obtain news and create an audience.” he said. “People who were trying to do things were isolated, so I wanted to connect them and create a culture of collaboration in the region to create high impact projects. This is the reason why I created PulsoSocial.”

This four year-old tech news platform has proved to be so successful, that this year PulsoSocial created its own conference: PulsoConf. The event, which was held in Bogotá on September 28 – 30, brought together hackers, investors and entrepreneurs from the United States and Latin America. The future of tech entrepreneurship was the focal point of the gathering.

Although comparisons with big-leaguers such as Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg might be well-earned, Andrés describes in detail the development of each of his projects with a humble sense of pride, and his fame as a Latino entrepreneur does not seem to take away his wish to help others.

The non-profit organization Coderise (which we have featured on our website) has the honor to have him as a mentor of its program, which will empower kids in development nations through coding. Coderise “will take the tools and knowledge to Latin America, so it gives the opportunity to young kids, who despite being brilliant have many local obstacles,” Andrés pointed out.  “But if you have a computer and you are smart, you can learn how to do things beyond what it’s taught in school, you could work for local technology companies, or even better, create your own product.”

It’s clear that Andrés not only promotes entrepreneurship with a global mindset, but he also knows the importance of assisting others as well. Finally, when offering advice to young entrepreneurs, he specifies two innate skills to succeed. “I think is all about ambition and curiosity; ambition is to think big, not being afraid to do something big or difficult. Curiosity is the motivation of learning, self-teaching and investigating. To never stop looking for ways to learn.”

This article was originally published in PorColombia.

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